Thursday, 02 July 2020 20:09

PILLAR: Another year down, but the same promise to provide the best sports coverage

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July is a special month for me because not only do I get to enjoy summer break as an educator, but I get to celebrate two birthdays.

The more important of the two birthdays comes on the first day of the month, the day when the Richmond Observer gets to notch another year in its belt of delivering award-winning news and sports journalism to Richmond County and the Sandhills region.

Wednesday marked the third birthday of the RO, and while that number may seem small in the world of journalism, the amount of success and growth our digital publication has shown in 36 short months is remarkable.

In February, the RO won eight awards at the annual North Carolina Press Association winter convention. Three of those went to the sports department, while the entire RO staff was recognized as the top media outlet in the state in “general excellence” for website publications.

When there’s a dedicated team of owners, publishers, editors and contributors like the RO has, it’s always easy to guarantee delivering high-quality news to our readers. 

There are the highs of breaking positive stories like area schools receiving a grant for 300 laptops from the Carolina Panthers, a Richmond County native being given the gift of sight by local students or the thrill of marching towards a possible state championship with deep playoff runs in several sports.

And there are the other stories that aren’t as flashy, but are necessary to the well-being of our community. Namely it’s been the coronavirus pandemic these last couple months, but even with that, I believe the RO delivers top-rated news coverage.

I’ve been with the Richmond Observer since day one and had several articles published in the first edition three summers ago. A month later I was the managing editor, and a short while later I took over the sports department.

That decision and opportunity in Feb. 2018 was one of the greatest gifts I’ve received and best undertakings I’ve done as a journalist.

Over these two and a half years and with the help of many people, I’ve made the ROSports department my project. And I’ve been lucky enough to have been given the creative go-ahead from my team to make it the best I can. 

I’ve forged relationships with hundreds of student-athletes, their families, school officials and community members, which is the root of what makes our publication the best. 

I get the added benefit of being a teacher and I’ve had the pleasure to watch several classes come up through Ellerbe Middle School and the Ninth Grade Academy. If you think our local athletes work hard on the field, it’s in the classroom where the real Radier Magic happens.

I’m proud of the fact that the RO has been the most consistent news team to provide Richmond County its news since our inception. Consistency is key in all athletics — practice, more practice, conditioning, constructive criticism, fine-tuning your craft — and being a sports journalist in a small rural community that has become home isn’t much different.

The consistency of being a dedicated body of journalists who serve our community, coupled with the elegant skill of our writing team, our measures to expand well beyond the limitations of traditional print journalism and include a nightly news broadcast, as well as incorporate weekly interviews and clips of athletics, are all things we wanted to do from the start.

A seed that was planted by co-founders Kenny Melvin and Lance Jenkins in the spring leading up to our launch date has blossomed into a sprouting, healthy digital media source that has proven to be able to compete with larger publications in metropolitan areas all across the state.

But the unique thing about being Richmond County’s sports editor is that I’m just that — the guy who gets the privilege every day to do what he loves for a community that deserves the recognition. 

I’ve written for major publications in cities like Pittsburgh, and while that’s a whole different buzz, there’s nothing like the satisfaction of knowing that at the end of a night full of three or four games, I have a county waiting to read about and share the successes of our high school and middle school student-athletes and coaches.

That feeling of acceptance by an entire county with several municipalities is magic in itself.

There are a lot of parallels between being an athlete or coach and being a sports journalist. The first is the competitive spirit we all share for our respective passions. Like our Raiders, I want to be the best all the time, and through practice, dedication and an insatiable love for what I do, I know that I bring Richmond County the best sports coverage possible.

The current coronavirus pandemic has put a lid on sports all across our country, but like the fighting spirit of Richmond County, that hasn’t stopped me or any of my fellow journalists at the RO to stop trying to provide headlines in a time when we need comfort and normalcy.

What was at first a shock to see sports wiped from our daily routines, is now a challenge that is at the forefront of the RO sports department. Competitiveness, creativeness and a desire to inform is what is keeping me and our publication going.

Like I’ve said before, I miss sports coverage and can’t wait for it to return in some capacity some time soon. I miss the sideline interviews, the late nights writing in my truck and answering questions and giving advice to our student-athletes. I have had a lot of time to reflect these last few months and I have some exciting new things planned when we get back to life before social distancing.

I want to close by telling our faithful readers of three, now going on four years, “thank you” for supporting the Richmond Observer, ROSports and small-town journalism. Thank you to all of the student-athletes, coaches and athletic officials who give me a chance to live my dream and give this sports town the recognition it deserves.

Another thank you to all of the parents, grandparents and families who have opened their arms and welcomed me into their lives as a sports journalist on the sidelines and in the bleachers. I do what I do because I love it — and being made aware of this unwavering support and that my work has had a positive influence on this county is something I’ll always use to make myself better.

So here’s my promise to you — I promise to continue to uphold the standard of professional journalism set by the Richmond Observer for many years to come. Three years is just the beginning.

Sports editor Kyle Pillar is an award-winning journalist for the Richmond Observer.

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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